Skip to comments.Worshippers subdue man who says he sought to save souls at historic church
Posted on 01/14/2004 4:34:33 AM PST by SwinneySwitch
A man proclaiming himself the "Prince of Peace" intent on saving souls from idol worship ran amok Tuesday morning at San Fernando Cathedral, toppling seven statues, reducing parts of them to piles of dust. Worshippers at the downtown church subdued the man until police arrived at around 8:30 a.m.
Officers found statues across the cathedral knocked off their pedestals, some of them split in two, others in dozens of tiny pieces.
"He was agitated. He started yelling that he was going to save the people in the church and he was going to start by smashing the statues," said Deacon Pat Rodgers, director of communications for the Archdiocese of San Antonio. "He went on a rampage."
Rogelio Rodriguez, 38, of San Antonio was charged with felony criminal mischief. He was in Bexar County Jail late Tuesday in lieu of $100,000 bond.
Rodriguez, who celebrated a birthday last week, has a criminal history of driving with a suspended license. His probation had been revoked on that 1990 charge.
The demolition jarred church officials, who unveiled a thoroughly restored San Fernando last spring after an intense $5.8 million project that rejuvenated one of the oldest churches in the city. Largely considered the city's spiritual center, San Fernando is believed to be the oldest cathedral sanctuary in the country.
Archbishop Patrick Flores fought to maintain his composure as he described his reaction to seeing seven major statues crumbled on the church's stone floor. They lay prostrate, some without limbs, others without heads.
"I must say it was very painful to see what had been done in view of the fact that so much work had gone into reshaping the cathedral into the pride and joy of all of us Catholics, Protestants, Jews and people of all denominations," Flores said. "I got depressed when I saw it, and I couldn't help but cry."
Other religious leaders echoed his sentiments.
"I certainly feel the same sense of sadness that Archbishop Flores and the Catholic community feel," said the Rev. Kenneth Thompson, executive director of the San Antonio Community of Churches. "I had a small part in the effort to restore the cathedral, and many gifts were donated by the non-Catholic community. This speaks volumes for where the heart of the community is where San Fernando Cathedral is concerned."
Temple Beth-El Rabbi Barry Block also expressed sorrow over the destruction.
"San Fernando Cathedral is a treasure to us all," Block said. "Anything Temple Beth-El can do to help our friends at the cathedral, we'll certainly be there."
While detained, Rodriguez reportedly told police officers he was God and was saving souls by destroying the idols that sinners worship. Police said he told them he was proud of his work and that it had been done in the name of his father. He also reportedly told police he had died and the person he used to be no longer is alive.
Flores said the man's claim of idol worship was false.
"I've been a Catholic all my life, and I was never told to worship a statue," he said. "These are monuments to the people they represent. The biggest monument is Jesus on the cross. Others were great servants of the church and the people, and when they were canonized, statues were erected in their honor and memory."
Those who were at the church when the incident happened reported that Rodriguez was agitated. By the time police arrived, however, he was calm and was said to have had a satisfied demeanor.
Several other statues were unharmed, including one of St. Ferdinand III, the Spanish king for whom the historical cathedral is named. Also unharmed were about 20 figurines in a Christmas manger scene.
Lewis S. Fisher, whose firm Fisher Heck served as the local architect on the cathedral restoration project, went to the church to survey the damage. He said some of the statues were more damaged than others because they were knocked off high perches.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary, Fisher said, fell and shattered a wooden pew because of its heft.
Most of the statues date to the early 20th century, Fisher said, adding, however, that they are not antiques.
"The decision will be made if they are beyond restoration," he said. "It may be better to purchase a new one."
The cathedral was closed temporarily Tuesday so conservators could survey the damage and gingerly move the damaged statues to a studio. A crowd gathered in front of the church for the regular noon Mass, only to find it closed.
"Oh, my gosh," José López said, his mouth dropping. "Who would do something like that? The church is across from one of the centers of justice in the city. Why isn't it guarded? I mean, we live in a world where we need to guard even the sacred grounds."
López said he had wanted to visit the church during a break in jury duty, which had brought him downtown.
"This is another blow to the church itself," he said. "But I know that we will all come out stronger in faith because of it."
Staff Writers J. Michael Parker, Rachel Toalson and Mary Moreno contributed to this report.
Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers,
and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you arethe Holy One of God!"
Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet! Come out of him!"
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
"What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
There are others who probably aren't psychotic who do believe that statues are idols. They are entitled to their opinion so long as they respect the property rights of others.
What's his FR screen name?
All in all, very sad, but not too much for a loving God to bear and forgive.......
Just curious -- which part of the Bible told him he was God? And which part told him it was okay to destroy someone else's property?
If the subject matter of this thread weren't so serious, I would think that was funny. It was a clever play on words.
Maybe it was this way: Perhaps the poor deranged soul saw the word "idol" and had some "idle" time on his hands.
In either case, he will be on court-ordered therapy I would suppose. As to God's forgiveness, I'm sure you are right if the guy is truly sorry. In his state of mind, being sorry is probably not an option. He may persist to the end in believing that he did God a favor.
Sometimes, private property is private property, and art is art.
Even if we believe that some Americans worship God the wrong way, we should respect other people's worship houses.